Pune: The disappearance of an AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force has brought back painful memories for 62-year-old Rajendra Barpatte, father of an IAF officer who was among 29 persons on board the same type of aircraft that went missing three years ago.
These ageing planes should be replaced as they are jeopardising the lives of those who fly them, Barpatte said.
In July 2016, an AN-32 with his 27-year-old son Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte on board went missing over the Bay of Bengal after leaving for Port Blair from Chennai.
Kunal was the flight navigator of the plane. The aircraft could not be traced despite a massive search operation covering 2,17,800 square nautical miles by multiple aircraft, Barpatte said. Months later, an IAF court of inquiry concluded that it was unlikely that the personnel on board would have survived, he added.
Barpatte, who had demanded after the incident that the government replace the "flawed" Russian-origin aircraft with newer and better planes, said he has sought more technical information about the AN 32 planes after Monday's incident.
"For last 35 years, we are using the same planes... The government is claiming that they have reconditioned all these aircraft. When I met Manohar Parrikar, the then defence minister, I asked him if he would like to keep using a 30-year old car," Barpatte said.
"I told him that you are putting the lives of young officers in jeopardy by asking them to fly these planes," said Barpatte, a retired scientist of the Central Institute of Road Transport.
Barpatte said he had told Parrikar that the aircraft manufacturer should be held responsible for its maintenance.
"But he assured me that the maintenance and service standards within the country were good," he claimed.
"The government should now 'learn a lesson' and come out with a replacement policy, he said."There are around 100 AN-32 aircraft in the IAF fleet and at least five crew members are needed for one aircraft. So by flying these planes, the lives of 500 IAF personnel are jeopardised," he said.